A “transformation” plan for downtown Lewiston and the Tree Streets neighborhood includes a 66-unit, mixed-use development on a stretch of Pine Street. Courtesy image

LEWISTON — The city and local organizations working to reel in a downtown redevelopment grant worth between $10 million and $30 million are moving ahead with their application without knowing an official due date.

In the spring, as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted priorities for municipalities, officials said it would likely cause delays in the Choice Neighborhood program, which seeks to redevelop and spur investment in Lewiston’s Tree Streets neighborhood, one of the poorest in the state.

Since then, officials have been mostly in the dark regarding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s timeline for soliciting applications, but have continued pulling together Lewiston’s entry.

Originally, the city had planned to finalize the application in the spring and apply sometime this summer.

According to Misty Parker, economic development manager, the city still doesn’t know when the grant application will be due, but said those involved are developing plans for the “replacement sites” included in the Choice Neighborhood grant.

Last week, the City Council signed off on a related grant application that will help pay some upfront costs incurred by the city’s partners in the effort, Avesta Housing and the Lewiston Housing Authority.


The Community Solutions Grant from Maine Housing would pay $75,000 toward the “planning and design work needed to have a competitive (application),” according to a city memo.

The 250-page downtown transformation plan, rolled out in 2019, includes plans for a 66-unit, mixed-use development on Pine Street, along Kennedy Park, and a 64-unit, family-oriented redevelopment along Pine and Bartlett streets. It also lays out related beautification projects and a focus on safety, health and education.

“We are working with our partners right now to draft different sections of the application, mostly to make sure the concepts we have discussed are articulated correctly and meet the objectives of the Choice Neighborhood program,” Parker said Tuesday. “The work has been slower than anticipated due to COVID and not meeting in person, but thankfully, we did a lot of work last fall and winter with partners to identify our approach to drafting the implementation grant.”

The city is waiting for a “notice of funding availability,” which, once issued, will likely give the city 90 days to submit its application.

“The notice of funding availability has still not been published by HUD so we are uncertain when the grant deadline will be,” she said, adding that she spoke with a HUD representative earlier this month, who stated they were “not certain” when the notice would be released.

“Once the (notice) is released we’ll have a ton of work to draft the complete application but our goal right now is to ensure the concepts and commitments are there with our partners,” she said.


Parker said this past spring that also causing delays is the need for continued public participation in the grant development, which is “just not realistic at this point.”

The city will be a co-applicant on the grant with the Lewiston Housing Authority and Community Concepts, which helped the city acquire several condemned properties in the downtown district to use for the redevelopment sites.

According to a City Council memo from Lincoln Jeffers, director of Economic and Community Development, the city is anticipating the notice of funding availability will include what’s known as a “funding set aside” for housing authorities.

He said having the Lewiston Housing Authority on board will “allow Lewiston to be eligible for all of the Choice funding made available, rather than only that not set aside for housing authorities.”

Avesta Housing was chosen this past spring as the housing development partner on the grant, and with the Lewiston Housing Authority, is expected to spend the $75,000 for preliminary design, engineering, mapping and legal costs.

According to the memo, 92 “functionally obsolete” Section 8 and public housing units in the neighborhood will be replaced with 200 mixed-income units, 92 of which will have “Section 8 projected-based rental assistance.”

The plan also calls for the creation of a housing production system “to double the home ownership in the Tree Streets neighborhood over the next 10 years, from 75 to 150 owner-occupied homes.”

In a recent letter to Maine Housing, City Administrator Denis D’Auteuil said the Community Solutions Grant will provide “critical support” for the Choice Neighborhoods effort.

“The application is the culmination of a seven-year community organizing and planning process that has been supported with time and money from Community Concepts, Lewiston Housing Authority and the John T. Gorman Foundation,” he said.

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